THE DEAD AMERICAN by JAKE NEEDHAM

The good news: Inspector Samuel Tay of the Singapore CID is back, and is turning into a regular old curmudgeon.

The bad news: since this third instalment in what I pray is going to be an endless series of novels, was only published a few weeks ago, there may be a bit of a wait now until the 4th book appears.

No pressure, Mr. Needham, you understand.

Oh Sam.  What a bloke.

In this book, the Inspector hits 50, with only his resigned quietly likeable sidekick, the long suffering Sergeant Kang for company.

All of Sam’s old fogey-isms are now an inherent part of his character, and I, for one, love him all the more for them.

Not great with technology:

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Not mad about the Americans:

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A defiant smoker in a country that tried to outlaw the habit as much as possible :

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Like the previous 2 novels in the Inspector Tay series, “The Dead American” opens with panache:

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The annoyingly familiar Emma  –  an American journalist –  arrives at his doorstep to enlist his help in solving what she considers to be a mystery.  A young American has been found hanging in his apartment.  The Singaporean authorities say he committed suicide.  She isn’t convinced.  And against his initial better judgement, Sam Tay gets slowly dragged into the mystery as to why this young software engineer (working, to Tay’s befuddlement, on the technology behind driverless cars) would be murdered.

As we have now come to expect with these great whodunnits, Singapore is a brilliant backdrop.  Way too clean and orderly for Sam’s liking, and full of people too ready to accept the official line, and then toe it.

I mentioned in my last review that such is the force of Sam’s personality that he makes a non-smoker like me cheer every time he lights up.  For the truth of the matter is, that despite its best efforts, the Singaporean government just cannot stop Sam loving his tobacco fix, and his pre-smoking rituals:

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This book takes us through the malls and hotels of Singapore suffering from regional pollution, but –  true to form –  Inspector Tay is unimpressed by the official hoopla:

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We walk through lobbies and coffee shops, we walk along the river front, we see the “new” Singapore through the eyes of Sam, who hankers for the old days.  In what his now his trademark style, the author seamlessly mixes real Singapore with fictional characters, an extremely effective technique.

We also meet Sam’s mother, who is fast becoming a bit of a rockstar in her own right.  (You’ll see what I mean when you read the book.)  And read it you should, if you love good witty writing that makes you smile all the time, a brilliant unconventional detective, and an insight into how one of Asia’s most successful countries tick.

Can’t wait for the next book.

I’m a big fan.

I’m also a big fan of Jake Needham, who has managed to irritate a country, and get himself into a bit of a spot in the bargain.  Let him tell you in his own words.

If you would like to buy “The Dead American”, just click below.  Technology that might well perplex Sam, but you all know how it works.  And as you now realise, it’s only available as an e-book.

And this week, guess what, I read about Google’s driverless cars.

 

THE UMBRELLA MAN by JAKE NEEDHAM

Having developed a bit of an infatuation with Inspector Samuel Tay, right from the moment I encountered him in “The Ambassador’s Wife”, I am happy to announce that he is still every bit my hero/anti-hero in the second of what one hopes will be an endless series of crime whodunnits.

Just like the first Inspector Tay novel, “The Umbrella Man” starts out with a bang, plunging the reader straight into the action. This time, however, the bang isn’t just  a metaphor.  Singapore explodes, as a series of bombs rips the heart out of Orchard Road.  The descriptions of the terror and destruction of one of the world’s major shopping streets is chilling.

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Sometimes, where you are physically when you read a book, or write down your thoughts (like here, in this review) does impact you.  So the fact that I am writing this while my daughter tells me from her carphone that there are bomb threats in Delhi, as she drives home through lunatic traffic, only made these scenes of the book even more frightening.

Mr. Needham skilfully weaves fact and fiction together, putting his fictional characters in real life Singaporean locations.  When he talks of  Ngee Ann City, one knows exactly where the drama is taking place.  The corner of Scott and Orchard Road, and the poor Marriott hotel, which featured so unflatteringly in the opening scene of “The Ambassador’s Wife”, bear the brunt of the explosions.  But who would do this?  Who would attack Singapore?  What had this tiny country done to “deserve” such an attack?

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The heart is ripped out of the tiny island state, and Inspector Tay is eager to be part of the team investigating this unprecedented horror.  But his previous run in with the Americans in “The Ambassador’s Wife” means that he is off the team.  The Americans bring pressure to bear and the Singaporeans bow to them, and Inspector Tay of the CID is sidelined.  And is furious.

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Never a big fan of the Americans at the best of times, this situation only inflames his temper and Grumpy-Old-Man-ism:

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He sulks, he mooches around, his poor Sergeant bears the brunt of his temper :

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And of course he thinks and smokes and thinks some more and smokes a lot more and…but I am not going to spoil the plot, never fear.

Themes that began in the first book are continued here –  his dislike for the Americans for example.  His love of smoking, which is such a no-no in Singapore that he takes a positive pleasure in smoking wherever and whenever he can.  It is a testimony to Mr. Needham’s writing and to Inspector Tay’s brilliantly grumpy nature, that even though I hate smoking, I secretly cheer each time Sam lights up where he isn’t supposed to, or drops a butt where is is forbidden.

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And it is this instinctive bridling against authority that leads to one of the dilemmas/controversies/call it what you will/ surrounding this book.

Basically, the powers that be in Singapore were a tad under-whelmed by the portrayal of their country in Mr. Needham’s first Inspector Tay book, and so this second novel was never published there.  Here, read the author’s own words on the subject –  he explains it way better.

Mr. Needham clearly knows Singapore and Singaporeans in great depth, and is not shy about speaking his mind.  Well, Inspector Tay’s mind :

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Another great story.

Sam Tay is way up there with my favourite literary men.

And I can’t wait for the next book.

Enthusiastically recommended, and if you feel so inlined, you can order the book right now, by clicking on one of the links below:

MATABELE DAWN by SAAD BIN JUNG

Saad bin Jung, the author of the recently published “Matabele Dawn” is a friend, a state of affairs that can sometimes make reviewing a book a rather tricky exercise. Treading the fine line between friendship and truth.  That kind of dilemma.

No such dilemma here.

Saad is a well known, shout-it-from-the-rooftops lover of Africa, and the bush, and wildlife, and the great outdoors.

Since we left South Africa nine oh-so-long years ago, there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t pine for the bush, or for the excitement of being on safari.  So the wonderful depiction of Africa that is the Matabele half of this book resonated completely.  Loved it.  Saad’s descriptions bring Africa to vivid life:

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In his book, Mr. bin Jung has two narratives, of Africa and India, that are generations apart, yet intertwined.

Both stories are also partly “out of Africa” and “out of India” in that they are stories of children of mixed marriages, and of mixed faiths, of foreigners living and loving and dying in different continents, far from their home.  Two men are born, decades apart, into chaos and disorder, into worlds of danger and change, and it is the chronicle of their lives that is “Matabele Dawn.”

Initially, I was a little startled by the very modern speaking voice of some of Mr. bin Jung’s 19th century characters, but then I thought – what is preferable?  Modern vernacular or a flood of “forsooths and by gads.”

Enjoy this book for the vividness of the language and story, for the enthusiasm and obvious love for two continents that poor forth.

When Mr. bin Jung launched his book this week in Delhi (where I live) the occasion was exactly as one would have expected. Roars of laughter at the stories told by the chief guests (All 3 of them.  Well, why ever not have 3 chief guests if you can?).  Not a moment of pompousness. Just laughter and a love for life.

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The author’s dedication in my book says it all:

“Here’s hoping you enjoy reading this half as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Published by Rumour books, “Matabele Dawn” costs Rs599 and you can order it right now, by clicking on the link below :

And here is the link to buy the Kindle version :

The Ambassador’s Wife by Jake Needham

I might just have a bit of a crush on Inspector Samuel Tay, of the Singapore CID.

Not because he’s tall dark and handsome, or any of that clichéd nonsense.

On the contrary, Inspector Tay is a slightly overweight, late-middle-aged smoker, and  – if the truth be known –  probably Singapore’s home grown version of a Grumpy Old Man.  Hates mobile phones.  Hates immediate familiarity.  Bit of a Luddite, if the truth be known.  But he makes me laugh out loud as he stomps around his island state, and that is a wonderful thing, to smile and laugh as you read.

So, yes. I am already a huge Inspector Tay fan after reading the first in what I hope will be an endless series of novels.

The Inspector grumbles a lot – about not being able to smoke, about technology he doesn’t understand, about the ruthless razing of the old Singapore and the imposition of a sanitised version, about how boring this pristine little city state it…it’s just that he doesn’t grumble out loud too much, since he hardly talks to anyone.  Being a bit of a loner, you understand.  So he just grumbles to us, the complicit reader.

Sam Tay has all the makings of a brilliant hero – almost an anti-hero in fact –  since he can’t shoot to save his life, doesn’t think much of most of his colleagues, loathes most Americans, is inarticulate around women…yup, a regular grumpy old man.  And what a fabulous character he is.

The ever inventive creator of Inspector Tay, the oh-so-clever Jake Needham, has written a marvellous whodunnit, but with lots of twists.

I love the way Mr. Needham seamlessly blends fact and fiction.  His fictional detectives and diplomats and victims inhabit the real identifiable world of Singapore, and despite his jibes at the expense of the Lion City, it’s clear that Mr. Needham knows the city like the back of his hand.  Sam wanders in and out of bookshops and coffee shops and the subway and the 5 star hotels, all of which exist for real, and he lives in Emerald Hill, which is real, and as I read the book, I realised that on my next trip to Singapore I shall probably laugh out loud when I see the Marriott, the scene of a horrific crime in the opening pages of the novel :

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Obviously I then googled the Marriott (which I thought I had remembered correctly, and I had) and voila, here it is:

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And of all the curious things –  out of all the dozens of images online for the Marriott, the one I chose (above) was, without realising it, from Jake Needham’s blog – coincidence, coincidence.  Naturally, I then read the newsletter, and what fun it is too.  Since Mr. Needham explains his story way better than I can ever do, here you go, the link to a very wry piece of writing about the locales used in the book.  Good fun.

Yes, you’re right.  Back to the book.

A woman has been brutally murdered  –  very, very brutally murdered and disfigured –  and it will come as no surprise to you that Sam Tay is squeamish and hates the sight of blood.  What a man.

I am not going to spoil the plot of this great book, obviously.

It’s a fascinating whodunnit.

And even more than that, perhaps, it’s an amazing insight into whatever still remains of the heart and soul of Singapore, through the jaundiced eyes of Sam Tay, who is all set to become my favourite detective as he grumbles and cusses his way through Singapore, smoking where he’s not allowed to, deliberately dropping his cigarette butts on the ground, battling technology as well as murder, kicking against the system…

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Anyway, enough from me.

Read this book and meet the best Grumpy Old man in Asia.

You can buy the book right now by clicking on the link below.  Couldn’t be easier.

 

 

The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail by Chetan Mahajan

 

You don’t really need the backstory, I hope, to appreciate this review, but since it might just put things fully in context, here you go.

Through the twin worlds of Facebook and running, I recently met the utterly charming Chetan Mahajan, author of “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail”. Having chatted (all too briefly) with Chetan, reading his book in 2 long greedy sessions was even more interesting, for this book is his prison diary.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A prison diary.

Just before the recent Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, Chetan posted on a running page I follow on Facebook that he had T shirts to give away, and mentioned that he had run a lot whilst in prison. With such an interesting post, obviously I googled him, and discovered that this well educated, urbane man had been wrongly fully arrested on Christmas Eve 2012, spent a month in jail in Jharkhand, before being released and exonerated of all charges. Thank goodness for us, he kept notes and wrote a prison diary, and it makes for fascinating reading.  It is almost certainly the only good thing to come out of his horrific experience.  He writes from the heart, and doesn’t hide his fear at being jailed, his utter disbelief that this was happening to him, and his expectation that he would be out within a day or so…which stretches to a week…to a month.

When I met Chetan, he was measured and pragmatic about his experience, saying that he had decided the only way to deal with it was to move on, and that writing this book had helped. I can fully see why, because in it he details not only his own fears and thoughts, his own highs and lows, but also talks a lot about prison life and routine, about the men he met in jail, as well as his thoughts on the Indian justice system. What you have to remember all the way through this book, is that Chetan, along with all the other men, is an under-trial. Someone not yet found guilty. And yet there are men inside who have served way beyond their time. Or what would have been their time, had their cases ever been heard.

Chetan is lucky. He has a dynamic father who rushes to be with him, he has his brother, his brother in law and his wife, who visit, and use their influence as educated, urban, well connected people, to ensure that his life is as comfortable as it can be in a cell. Pity the many men he meets inside who are too poor, or illiterate, and therefore by inference not connected to anyone at all.  They languish in jail, unaware of their rights.

Chetan told me, and is at pains in the book to say that he wasn’t badly treated. No beatings, no feared sexual attacks. By and large, despite being so different from nearly all the prisoners, the latter treated him well, and the prison staff were as reasonable as they are capable of being. His fear and bewilderment as he is arrested and processed and slung into jail is powerful stuff, and I especially enjoyed his description of the first section of the prison where he is housed, with a makeshift temple at one end and a stinky loo at the other. His initiation into prison life and prison hierarchy is fascinating, as he learns about the economics of being in jail. Anything and everything is available.  For a price. Better food, drugs, alcohol, mobile phone – if you have the money outside, you can procure these luxuries inside.

The police and the prison authorities play their part in this economy, skimming off a percentage of everything that is legally brought into the prison, and one imagines, they earn a hefty cut for allowing the illegal stuff in – the drugs, booze, mobile phones.

Mr. Mahajan is a serious runner (remember, I mentioned at the outset that I had read his FB post in connection with the half marathon) and once his family delivers his running shoes to jail, running is one of the ways he keeps fit and stays sane and focused. In the early days, his focus is on keeping up his training for the Mumbai marathon, but as December rolls into January, and it becomes clear that he will not be at the marathon starting line with his beloved wife and fellow runner Vandita, he still continues to run –  in order to think, and to clear his head. His running for choice intrigues his fellow prisoners, and there is speculation that he is a commando. Why else would he run, when he could loll around sleeping?

This book is fascinating because it gives us an insight into a world – please God – that we will never encounter. And that is precisely why “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail” is such a compelling read, because Mr. Mahajan is a PLU. A Person Like Us.  Urban, flawless English, educated, foreign MBA, children, dogs, running – just like any of us…And being imprisoned was as alien and frightening to him as it would be to any of his us.  Without any warning, he is thrust into a world for which he has absolutely no preparation.

His observations on the corruption within the prison system and the sheer waste of the lives of the under trials makes for sobering reading. He laments the fact that these men are taught nothing whilst they are in jail. No skills, no education, nothing. They lie around, sleeping and playing cards, and some of them get religious, but whenever they leave Bokaro Jail they will be as ill educated. untrained, unskilled, unreformed as the day they were arrested.. And, one imagines, as vulnerable and ripe for re-arrest.

Totally recommended.

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If you would like to read “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail” simply click on one of the links below and order :

Oh.  Yes.

The T shirt.

In support of Amnesty’s efforts to help under trials. What else?

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VILLANELLE : HOLLOWPOINT by LUKE JENNINGS

Mr. Jennings and his clever writing and gripping story lines is my new brilliant new discovery this week, and as I finish the 3rd novel of his in a row, I can’t wait for the next one.

“Villanelle : Hollowpoint” is a Kindle single, and having also just discovered this e-novella format, I am chomping at the bit for the next instalment in the Villanelle series.

Because there is clearly going to be a third book, right?  Otherwise, what on earth would have been the point of introducing us to Eve Polastri of MI5?  The arch nemesis of the racy Villanelle, if ever I saw one.

Eve is a good woman, a thorough professional, whose career gets sideswiped when…oh, but I can’t tell you exactly what derails Eve’s career, because that would be a total plot spoiler, and that is one thing you don’t want with these novellas.

This story isn’t as exclusively about the psychopathic killing machine called Villanelle as the first book in the series, and the beautiful Russian now shares the storyline with the not so glamorous (in fact not remotely glamorous) Eve, who is married to a maths teacher.  They live in a small, messy flat and they play bridge at the local club in the evenings.  Nothing could be further from the jet-setting, expensive, luxurious, lethal world of Villanelle.

Eve is the antithesis of Villanelle in so many ways –  clothes, home, family life – but when it comes to work, they are both focused and dedicated professionals and I can foresee many delicious books on the horizon, pitting these 2 formidable women against each other.

What I enjoy about Villanelle is that she is robotic and ruthless and kills to order, but you don’t in any way dislike her.  Her effortless cool and glamour and cleverness ensure that.  She kills on the orders of a shadowy organisation that requires certain people whom they consider to be troublesome to be eliminated, and the beautiful Villanelle is a professional killing machine and she does her job, never stopping to query the ethics or the rights and wrongs of her work.  Actually, neither did I, very much.

A gripping story.  Well written.  Fast paced.  Two great female characters.

What’s not to love?

 Thoroughly recommended, and you can buy it here, right now.

BEAUTY STORY by LUKE JENNINGS

Some times I wonder if I should bluff more when I blog, but then I think…nah. Honesty is far and away the best policy.

So, the truth of the matter is that I was casting around for something to read, and pulled a book off my bookshelf.

“Beauty Story”.

Nice hardback, bought in Johannesburg several years ago.

Languished unread ever since.  And I have no reason why.  Stupid oversight.

What a revelation Luke Jennings is.  What a writer. I have subsequently googled him (as one does to correct one’s ignorance), and discovered that he is a writer of note, a journalist and, how fabulous, a dance critic.

None of this I knew as I devoured “Beauty Story”, which is as luscious a piece of mystery writing as you could hope to read.

The book is replete with gorgeous descriptions, that are so lush and so tactile that you can close your eyes and imagine yourself in the wonderful setting of Darne, a jewel of an Elizabethan house in Warwickshire, that is being used for a film commercial. Of course, now that I know that Mr. Jennings is a dance critic, and therefore a man who clearly spends hours in theatres, the theatricality that is at the heart of the book makes total sense, as do all the beautiful, detailed descriptions of the costumes and the settings for the filming.

The story is told in the first person, and we see everything through the eyes of Alison MacAteer, a fashion journalist who is commissioned to cover an elaborate ad campaign for a new perfume, “Eternal Summer.”  The commercial is filmed in the house and garden of Darne, as a homage to one of the ancestors of the Duboys family that still lives in Darne, a beautiful young woman who disappeared without trace some 400 years ago.  The commercial is filmed as an elaborate Elizabethan masque, and one of the joys of this book is the wealth of literary and artistic references.  Mr. Jennings wears his scholarship lightly, and I loved reading about Shakespeare and Elizabethan imagery and painting.

At the heart of the Duboys family history is the unexplained disappearance of Eleanor, and when the young American actress who stars in the commercial also disappears, there are obvious parallels.  Alison, in order to understand the present, must delve into the past, and as she does so, she must confront her own demons.  For Alison has her own dark history with which she must come to terms.

This is a dazzling book, and this review simply does not do it justice.

Read it for the story which is fascinating and very clever. Read it for the descriptions which are fabulous.  Read it for enchantment.

Goodness knows why my own copy of  “Beauty Story” was neglected for so long.

Highly recommended.

Published in 1998 by Hutchinson, my (old) hardback cost £17.99

MAINE by COURTNEY SULLIVAN

How is it possible to finish reading such a marvellous book like “Maine” and then be able to come up with nothing but clichés when trying to describe it?

Sweeping, dramatic, epic, saga – oh dear, oh dear, such hackneyed terms, and yet they all fit the bill.

For “Maine” is indeed an epic, sweeping tale of a family over the generations, and it is a fabulously good read to boot.  At the literal and physical heart of the story is a holiday home on the beach in Maine, where Alice, her late husband Daniel, their children and now their grandchildren traditionally spend the summer months.  The cottage occupies a central part in the psyche of Alice’s adult children, who bring to their holidays in Maine (regulated now on a roster basis, by bossy Pat and his super efficient wife Ann Marie) memories of childhood holidays, and the accompanying emotional baggage of secrets and jealousy and resentment.

Alice is the matriarch of the Kelleher clan, a family that still prides itself on its Irish heritage, which they celebrate in noisy, alcoholic fashion whenever the occasion permits.

As summer approaches, and the families once again begin to make their preparations for the holidays, we are drawn deeper and deeper into their tangled web of memory and truth, of stories and lies and deceits and secrets. For this family has secrets aplenty, which eat away at them.

We keep changing perspectives, seeing life through the eyes of the main female protagonists –  Alice, her daughter Kathleen, her daughter-in-law Ann Marie, and Kathleen’s daughter Maggie.  Each of these women has a secret, and our privileged-and-changing perspective allows us to know what the other women do not.  We see how they understand each other, but also how they wilfully misunderstand each other, too.  We see clearly, whilst they cannot, how closely love and hate are intemingled, and how easy it is to misunderstand someone’s words and motives for many years.  They all perceive each other quite differently, often with sad consequences.

Alice makes a decision about the cottage which will affect everyone, for this is a home that keeps drawing them all back, year after year, despite their disagreements and differences.

I have said in other book reviews that one doesn’t have to “be” of, or from a place, to enjoy a story, even though insider knowledge definitely adds to one’s enjoyment of a book.  The insider knowledge I enjoyed in this book, was the strong Irish Catholic leitmotiv, that both binds the family together whilst often repelling them at the same time.

There were passages that rang so true:

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The writer has a brilliantly keen ability to observe people and describe them perfectly :

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I loved this vignette of a foreigner living in New York:

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Family, secrets, the cottage, the church, marriage, alcohol – all these themes flow through the book, binding and also separating these women (for the book is essentially about the women of this family):

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The men of the family are there, present and correct, but you always feel that the real burden of the business of keeping families going, and of the cottage, and of keeping the secrets hidden safely away, falls always to the women :

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This is a lovely long read, to be devoured.

Personally and very enthusiastically recommended.

 

If after reading this review, you wish to buy this great novel, nothing could be simpler.  Simply click on the link below : 

THE SILKWORM by ROBERT GALBRAITH

I read the first Cormoran Strike mystery while sitting in a tent at high altitude in Ladakh, on a climbing expedition last August.

I have just read the second in the series, “The Silkworm” while sitting in a tent at high altitude in Ladakh, on a climbing expedition this August etc etc

Just thought I’d share the scene setting with you.

I had eagerly looked forward to the second book, having loved “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and yet again, the author does not disappoint.  This is another cliff hanger of a whodunit, with the final unravelling of a macabre, baffling, literary infused investigation only happening in the dying seconds of the book.

Cormoran Strike is, as ever, hugely likeable –  he is a big man in every sense of the word –  in size, appetite, honesty, integrity.  His amputated leg (the result of an explosion in Afghanistan) is a very powerful and frequent factor in his life, hurting him, making him weaker than he would like to be – and therefore very angry at his own weakness.

His assistant Robin get more and more likeable by the minute and I for one harbour the hope that she might finally leave her impossibly good-looking but unbearably pompous fiancé Matthew, for…who knows…I had my hopes up at one point in the book, but by the end was not too sure anymore. Robin appears to have forced the arrogant Matthew to accept the worth of her job, so who knows?

The plot of “The Silkworm” revolves around a particularly grisly murder of a has-been author whom no one appears to like very much, but whose posthumous work “Bombyx Mori” manages to ridicule and caste aspersions on just about everyone in London’s tight-knit, gossipy, bitchy literary world.

We meet writers and wannabe writers, literary agents, publishers, and everything unfolds against the powerful backdrop of London, very much a character in its own right.  The buses, the tube,  the taxis, the pubs, the freezing winter weather – London is beautifully portrayed…

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You can feel the cold, and you savour the glorious views…

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I thoroughly enjoyed “The Silkworm”, ensconced in my tent against the howling Himalayan winds but not, if I’m honest, quite as much as “The Cuckoo’s Calling” which I loved.

Having said that, can’t wait for the next Cormoran Strike mystery.

And yes, how right you are – no plot spoilers.  I would never do that to you.

 

If you wish to order the book/e-book, nothing could be simpler. Just click on one of the links, below:

 

THE BROKER by John Grisham

No doubt about it, John Grisham is a cracking storyteller, and “The Broker” is a gripping read from start to finish.

This is one of the least “legal” of Mr. Grisham’s novels (at least amongst the ones I have read) and even though the broker in question is indeed a lawyer, he is more of a political lobbyist. Joel Backman is in fact one of the most powerful men in Washington, the ultimate high-flyer, a man who wheels and deals at the highest echelons of the Washington power structure.

Until he ends up in jail, that is, disbarred, bankrupt and in solitary confinement.

One of the last acts of possibly the most ineffective US President ever, is to pardon Joel Backman, at the apparent behest of the CIA, who immediately fly him out of the US and off to Bologna in Italy, under an assumed name and with a handler, Luigi, whose sole mission is, it would appear, to get Joel to learn Italian as quickly and effectively as possible.

There is a lot of Italian in this book, and a lot of wandering through the historic city of Bologna which, one can only imagine, Mr. Grisham loves a lot.

The contrast between Italy and the US is often highlighted, be it the food, the long lunches, the smoky cheek-by-jowl tables in cafés, and we spend many a happy hour in Joel’s company as he discovers a new city, a new country, a new language and a whole new way of life.

But danger is never far away, and Joel Backman is soon on the run – but from whom?  His own country, in the guise of the the CIA and/or the FBI?  Or someone else?

To answer those questions would obviously be a major plot-spoiler, so I won’t.

Suffice it to say, you are gunning for Joel Backman all through this exciting, fast-paced book, and as he ducks and dives and weaves to escape from something he doesn’t fully understand, you the reader are hooked.

 

To order this gripping page-turner right now – whether as a book or as an e-book –  simply click on one of the links below :

 

And, yes, one day I definitely intend to visit Bologna, inspired by Mr. Grisham…